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Pursuing Multiple Goals under Time Pressure: A Computational Investigation

Mr. Manikya Alister
The University of Melbourne ~ School of Psychology
Dr. Timothy Ballard
The University of Queensland ~ School of Psychology
Scott Herbert
University of Queensland

Many decisions we face daily entail deliberation about how to coordinate resources shared between multiple, competing goals. When time permits, people appear to approach multiple-goal pursuit problems rationally, integrating information analytically to arrive at a prioritisation decision. However, it is not yet clear if this normative strategy extends to situations characterised by limited deliberation time. We evaluated the question of how limited deliberation time affects goal prioritisation decisions using a gamified experimental task, which required participants to make a series of interdependent goal prioritisation decisions. We fit several candidate models to experimental data in order to identify decision strategy adaptations at the individual subject-level. Results indicated that participants tended to opt for a simple heuristic strategy that was reliant on goal deadlines when deliberation time was low. This suggests that deadlines became particularly salient for most participants at the expense of other relevant information when deliberation time was limited.



multiple-goal pursuit
time pressure
bayesian modelling


Mathematical Psychology

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Cite this as:

Alister, M., Ballard, T., & Herbert, S. (2021, February). Pursuing Multiple Goals under Time Pressure: A Computational Investigation. Paper presented at Australasian Mathematical Psychology Conference 2021. Via